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How Making Completely Innovated my Classroom

How Making Completely Innovated my Classroom

Written by Erin Pfahler
August 11, 2015

This year I began incorporating the concept of the makerspace into my classroom.  I began the process by giving students the opportunity to make something to represent the definition of a vocabulary word.  They were given the options of filming a stop motion video, creating a skit, making a sculpture out of playdough, or any other ideas they came up with to show their understanding of a new word off their vocabulary list.  This was just the start of our making journey in the classroom.  As a class, we would soon find out this journey would consist of creativity, collaboration, and fun through expression.  Expressing ideas about literature would never be the same after diving in to this making journey.  

The definition of making that seems to make the most sense throughout this past year of making in my classroom is ‘the creation of something to express something about the life experience.’  I have started to see the study of Language Arts in the same way; ‘the creation or study of an expression of the life experience.’ The combination of making and Language Arts brings life, collaboration, and creativity into the classroom in a way I never thought possible.  

Here’s how making completely innovated my classroom.  

1.   Strong relationships were built.  Making is fun and engaging.  Students enjoy the freedom making brings to the classroom.  When your students like what they are doing in the classroom, they like coming to class.  When students like coming to class, they start to trust you.  When students start to trust you, they start to like you as a person and teacher.  When students like and trust you as a person and teacher, strong relationships are built.

Student testimonial:  Trying new things out/standing up for what you believe in

2.            Unleashes creativity.  Students are able to use their own thoughts and ideas to come up with their own representation of a concept through a way that makes sense to them.  They take their ideas and thoughts rolling around in their head and create something from them using the time and materials given to them in class.  By giving them that creative freedom, students’ willingness and desire to learn increase.  

Student Testimonial:  Making helps bring creativity to the world

Student Testimonial:  Making is your own expression of something

3.            Hands on experience.   Students love to experience things and learn by doing.  Giving students the opportunity to explore materials, move around, try things out, and just experiment gives the real life experience with problem solving and critical thinking.  Students respond with much more enthusiasm if you ask them to use their hands to create something that represents a theme of a book rather than if you would ask them to write a paragraph analyzing the theme of the book.  Both have their time and place, but giving them the opportunity to create something tangible to express their thoughts has power beyond words.  

4.            In-depth learning.  When you come up with an idea on your own, chances are you are much more likely to take that idea and run with it.  People all have their own interests and are going to be more likely to “dig deeper” into topics they are interested in than something their teacher told them to research.  Making allows for students to delve deeper into topics that they are interested in and make connections to concepts being studied in the classroom.  It gives students the opportunity to take an idea and work with it for an extended period of time in their own way.  

Student Testimonial:  Getting everything planned out

5.            Differentiation.  The big “d’ word; a word EVERY educator knows.  Making differentiates each lesson without much work on your part, as the teacher.  Students are going to gravitate towards their own learning style and take off with it in a way that works for them when making.  They begin use their own innate sense for how they learn and what they want to learn to determine the make they choose to dive into and the process they take the make it.  

6.            Technology.    Technology is the future and kids love it; everything about it.  Making shows them how to use it in fun, productive, and super cool ways.  Some quick examples that students have played around with it in my classroom through making are stop motion videos, x-ray goggles, powtoon, and i- Movie.  All of these are examples of apps or websites found on their computers or phones.  If you don’t know how to use them, but have a general idea of what functions they can have for your students, chances are your students will be able to figure them out!

7.            Interdisciplinary learning.   Students love making connections from class to class.  Every teacher has had a student raise their hand and say something along the lines of, “This reminds me of what Mrs. Jones was just teaching us!”  This is an example of content intersections. Making allows for this to happen seamlessly.  A student can be making a pop- up book that illustrates a poem they wrote, while using circuitry skills they learned in science class to make their book light up.  Very cool connections!

Student testimonial:  Connections

8.            Just plain fun.  Students love to make. They love making a mess, playing and  tinkering with materials to unleash the ideas they have rolling around in their brain.  Students also love to work with each other.  Making gives them the opportunity to give and receive feedback from their peers.  

Student Testimonial:  Making is actually fun

9.            Engaging lessons.  Conversation is occurring all the time during the process of making, but it is geared toward their ideas about their makes and what process they are going to take to execute their idea rather than instagram, vine, or video games. This is the perfect picture of engagement in the classroom. There is no need to re-focus students during a making session because they are so immersed in what they are working on.  Classroom management is taken care of because each student has their own make they are working on and they are focused and excited about that thing, without any convincing from you, the teacher.    

10.        Collaboration.  Making allows for collaboration and teaches necessary social skills.  Students have to learn to share materials, help others when they are stuck, or start completely over when they mess up.  Students will ask each other what to do or may work together to come up with a group idea.  When students put their heads together, the ideas they come up with are outstanding.  Making gives them this space to just throw ideas out there, mix them together, and make something beautiful out of the combination.  

Student Testimonial:  Making helps build social skills

The most important aspect of incorporating making into my classroom this year is the reactions my students would have after making and posting those reactions onto our google classroom page.  Students would thank me for allowing them to make that day or ask when our next maker faire would be.  Many students would ask me to interview them so they could share their successes (and failures) of their making process.  In most of these interviews and reflections students would comment on how hard the work was, but also how rewarding and fun it was at the same time.  This can be seen in some of the links that are posted above.  The journey of making in the classroom to express ideas about literature and the world around us completely innovated my classroom.  I would encourage anyone to take the leap into a more innovative, collaborative, and fun classroom through making. 

Open How Making Completely Innovated My Classroom.doc

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